Five of the six Turlock City Council candidates took seats at the council dais in City Hall for a debate Tuesday evening, but only two will hold full-time seats following the Nov. 2 election.
The second candidate forum of the election season, sponsored by the League of Women Voters and hosted in Turlock City Hall, focused mainly on bridging a perceived divide on the current council and returning civility to City Hall.
Candidate Timm LaVelle, who owns a bookkeeping business and previously spent eight years on the Turlock Unified School District Board of Trustees, said he would bring a new level of professionalism to the council. LaVelle said he would solicit input from the community with an open-door policy, and work to conduct all council business in an open and transparent manner.
While LaVelle said the city’s most pressing needs are jobs and tax revenue – which he said he would bring by streamlining the process for businesses to open in Turlock and hiring business recruiters – he focused primarily on how he could best serve the council, especially taking into account his past time as a TUSD Trustee.
As a trustee, LaVelle touted his experience in drafting a $180 million budget covering 1,400 employees, his administrative leadership, and, most importantly to LaVelle, his experience with “Team Governance.” That policy asks all elected officials to work together for the good of the agency, to never take debates personally, and to come to a consensus as to what would be the best course for the agency.
“With consensus everyone wins,” LaVelle said. “With compromise, someone is always losing.”
Candidate Bill DeHart, director of marketing for Covenant Village, played up his time serving in the United States Marine Corps as a commissioned officer flying helicopters. DeHart said that the experience helped him develop leadership, management, and teambuilding skills – as well as the ability to make quick decisions.
DeHart said he has a “common-sense approach” to governance, which would enhance communications between council and all citizens of Turlock in search of the best path forward for the city.
That common-sense extends to budget negotiations, DeHart said, as balancing the budget is priority number one for the candidate. Dehart said he would work to bring in new business and income through promoting Turlock, would make sure to fund programs that work, and would spend within the city’s means.
“This is not rocket science,” DeHart said. “This is an ever-vigilant attention to detail, making sure that we are not overstepping our bounds.”
Candidate Forrest White, a former Turlock Recreation manager and San Joaquin County Fair CEO, advocated a proactive approach to governance, focused on maintaining quality services in the face of a declining budget. Rather than reacting to problems, White suggested that the City Council should go out and be proactive in talking to citizens to learn of issues before they become problems.
White extended his platform of proactivity to cover job development, the most pressing issue facing Turlock for the candidate.
“You can’t wait for business to come here,” White said. “You have to go out and solicit businesses. I’m not talking about small business, or big business, but all business.”
White also argued for a proactive approach to budget planning, starting in January. White said his experience dealing with governmental budgets from his time spent as a fair CEO would be of use in negotiations.
Candidate Jeremy Rocha, an agribusinessman and recent California State University, Stanislaus graduate who is running for council for the third time at age 23, focused on his Turlock Improvement Plan, which sees Turlock becoming the economic, education, and entertainment capitol of the region. Only by addressing all three issues, Rocha said, can Turlock achieve its best.
The plan calls for Turlock to recruit new businesses through a marketing campaign based on a resume of the city, filled with personal testimonials as to why Turlock is a good place to do business. Rocha’s plan also advocates the creation of graduate schools and trade schools within Turlock, a semi-annual valley leadership conference, and the establishment of broadcast television channels in Turlock.
Rocha said he would bring strong leadership to the council, leading by example and always listening to both sides of an argument. He in particular took issue with the Turlock City Council earlier this year deciding to pay no heed to vocal public opposition to the Joe Debely Stadium renovation.
“It was egregious to have the council ignore public sentiment,” Rocha said.
Candidate Pat Noda, a local businessman, continued to focus on the same two issues he has made lynchpins of his campaign: addressing Turlock’s homeless and improving the city’s bus system. But Noda added to his platform the need to carefully examine how Turlock spends its money.
Noda also took time to address the missteps of the current council in that regard, stating that he had become “disillusioned with the council.” Noda cited the City Council’s past decisions to fund redevelopment projects such as the reconstruction of Joe Debely Stadium instead of a homeless shelter, referencing the Egyptians’ decision to build pyramids rather than care for its residents.
Noda also found fault with the way the Turlock City Council had ignored public comment when he attempted to voice his opinion in the past, such as when he tried to convince the council to build a new bus hub downtown, rather than on Dels Lane.
“They allowed you to speak, but they just went on their way doing what they would want to do,” Noda said. “It’s no use being a member of a city if you have no influence in its direction.”
The final candidate for Turlock City Council, David “DJ” Fransen, did not attend the debate. Fransen also missed last week’s Chamber of Commerce-sponsored debate at Covenant Village.
One more public debate awaits the six council candidates. The Turlock Journal will co-sponsor a debate with California State University, Stanislaus at 6:30 p.m. on Oct. 18 at Snider Hall on the CSU Stanislaus campus.
To contact Alex Cantatore, e-mail email@example.com or call 634-9141 ext. 2005.